Monday, July 4, 2011
A Year of True Growth and Learning
Now that school has been out for over two weeks, I finally had some time to settle down and really reflect on the past school year. For me, even though it was my fourth year in my school building as an English teacher and team leader, I could have never been prepared for the challenges that lay ahead. In the process, I learned a great deal about myself as a learner, thinker, leader, team player, and teacher, much of which affirmed the path I would like to see my career in education take.
For starters, I truly learned what it means to be a MENTOR and leader this year. My co-team leader entered our school very overwhelmed, especially since she was also in charge of the science department (which was in the process of moving and working in non-science rooms due to our building's construction). The department had to be her first priority, leaving me to handle all of the eighth grade team business and logistics essentially alone. I am not one to normally complain, but yes, things got bad, duties were neglected, and courageous conversations with my colleague had to happen. Looking back now, I am very proud of my mature, diplomatic conduct during this time of transition, especially when it came to broaching difficult topics and areas of concern with my counterpart. I learned how to really teach someone how to be an effective team leader and leader in general, one who puts the team above themselves, thinks big picture, and strives to be a daily, ongoing resource for her teachers and students. I learned how to be patient, be specific with my feedback, delegate responsibilities, and ask for help from others and the administration when needed. I laughed, cried, screamed, and reflected through it all...
Outside of my team leader responsibilities, I also grew tremendously as a teacher. Fully comfortable and versed with the eighth grade English curriculum I teach, I was able to once again focus my energies in the classroom on getting to know my students as well as possible. I mentored several at-risk girls and got to interact with some truly amazing young adolescents every day. They kept me hopeful, smiling, and enthusiastic, even on days when the morale in my building and on my team was less than ideal.
This was also a real time of change in our school. Apart from the ongoing, massive reconstruction process, our principal abruptly took long-term leave and then retired beginning in February. Luckily, the county sent in an amazing interim principal out of retirement, who taught me an incredible amount about what it takes to be an outstanding school leader in a short five months time. She also encouraged me to take the next step in my professional life and apply for an esteemed Educational Leadership Program through Hood College and the county. I applied, interviewed, and was accepted early last month. I begin my coursework in mid-August and aim to finish with Assistant Principal I & II certifications by spring 2013. Very exciting indeed!
On a personal level, it was all about exploration and BALANCE for me this year. I started the fall with a running injury that kept me from competing until November, when I ran the NYC Marathon with a solid time and full health. All the marathons (10 total) I ran in 2010 took a toll on me physically and encouraged me to seek solace outside the running world. My break from running allowed me to re-establish balance in my life and appreciate new and old fitness loves, such as Bikram yoga (which I was introduced to back in 2008 but had not recently practiced) and Crossfit (a brand new love that forces me outside my comfort zone). I re-introduced semi-professional singing in my life for a semester with the Cathedral Choral Society, reconnected with friends new and old, and continued to support my husband in his Masters Degree work at Georgetown University. He completed his degree in Security Studies in May, and I couldn't be prouder! In April, I was officially made the new President of the Northern Virginia Alumnae Chapter of Delta Delta Delta for the next two years, an honor I am humbled by and fully enthusiastic about.
Indeed, it has been a crazy, wild ride, but I am beyond grateful for the many blessings I have had this past year. It was not always easy, but my colleagues, family, wonderful husband, and amazing friends helped me come out stronger in the end. The next school year will bring a variety of stressful changes, such as a new building principal, new classroom (due to construction), a new evaluation year, and a new challenging group of eighth graders.
Attitude really is everything, though, and I am ready and eager about what the future holds. In the meantime, I will continue to enjoy some much-needed R&R this summer and be grateful for what is truly important in my life -- my health, family, friends, values, and experiences shared with loved ones.
Happy 4th of July all!